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Feeling busy is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to always be that way

(ENTREPRENEUR) At some point, everyone feels overwhelmingly busy but you don’t have to be stuck in that feeling.

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How to Feel Less Busy

Most of us would consider ourselves busy in the plainest sense of the word—and if you’re here and reading this article, it seems safe to assume to that you fit into the busy mold, too.

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While making oneself less busy is often an exercise in dawdling or running pointless errands (the printer can only run out of elbow grease so many times, Harold), here are a few ways you can make your own haste more bearable.

Start early, finish early.

Contrary to what non-morning people think, beginning your day earlier than necessary doesn’t shift your hours of operation up a few pegs. You’ll often notice that waking up a couple hours early doesn’t alter your bedtime.

Instead, you grant yourself an extra chunk of daylight with which to accomplish your goals.

Additionally, replacing the feeling of exhaustion that accompanies late hours with a sense of euphoria at finishing one’s work an hour or two early will leave you feeling mentally relaxed.

Respect your own “Do Not Disturb” hours.

Maybe you’re one of those people who can’t leave your cell phone or email inbox alone while you’re off the clock. I’m guilty of this myself; the stress of knowing that your inbox is probably filling up with hate mail from your boss and free money from Nigeria as you take an hour to yourself is absolutely maddening.

Ask yourself this, though: when was the last time your actual inbox matched your perception of what it might look like after a night away?

Once you learn that it’s okay to punch out mentally as well, your periods of rest and relaxation will significantly improve.

Similarly, it can be tempting to want to get a head start on the following day’s tasks. Resist the urge to plan or do some “light work”—instead, treat your off-the-clock hours the way they deserve to be treated and just have a damn beer.

Minimize distractions.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with tasks when you keep seeing white numbers on red backgrounds popping up on your Facebook page and your phone is constantly whistling at you. Since these are often tasks that don’t matter in the context of the work day, consider muting them while you’re in work mode. The less visual and audible input you have, the less you’ll feel like you’re juggling.

Leave a small task unfinished.

This is a favorite of mine. At the end of the day, try to leave a small, easily accomplished item on your checklist for the following day. This will allow you to start the following morning with a work-related warmup of sorts.

Especially if you’re getting up earlier than necessary, having this tiny task will help ease you into the day’s routine.

Even if the task is something as small as reloading your stapler or installing a computer update, this is a fantastic way to feel productive while not overburdening yourself from the moment you step into your office.

Establish a reasonable effort baseline.

It’s easy to want to go all-out when you first take a position or receive a promotion, but try pacing yourself a bit. Tackling an insane amount of work at the beginning of your time with an employer will set that standard as your baseline in their eyes, while leaving yourself with some space to improve in the beginning will afford you some breathing room later.

This isn’t to say that you should purposefully suck at your job, of course—just know that you don’t have to scale Mount Everest every day to hold onto your job.

Pay attention to down time.

It’s easy to note the amount of time you’re spending performing a certain task. Less easy is realizing and embracing the brief respites between tasks, or finding time to relax while performing an easy job.

When I was a sophomore in college, I had a job cleaning the floors in the UC kitchen. It wasn’t a particularly entertaining job, of course, and it was fairly challenging most nights; however, I knew that the point at which I had to wash the kitchen mats was a time to look forward to, since it required little cognitive input and allowed me a break from the stench of rotting produce and cleaning chemicals.

I also grew potatoes under a soup kettle in that kitchen as a form of retribution toward our grumpy boss, though, so perhaps you shouldn’t listen to me.

The point here is simply that taking some time to appreciate the invariable breaks between momentous tasks throughout the day will make the day seem marginally less crowded, which may be exactly what you need.

And, failing that, try kicking a potato or two under your boss’ desk. They’ll sprout for, like, no reason at all, and you’ll get a laugh out of it.

#chillpill

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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Business Entrepreneur

Small businesses must go digital to survive (and thrive)

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A study at Cisco reveals how digitizing small businesses is no longer optional, but critical to success, thanks to the pandemic.

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Black woman working on a laptop on a couch, running her small businesses' needs digitally.

As digital transformation efforts ramp up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study released by Cisco has highlighted some key insights into how small businesses will need to adapt in order to survive in the “new normal.”

The study, conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), analyzed more than 2,000 small businesses across eight different markets, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Chile, and France. Using a four-section index to assess a small business’s digitalization efforts, the research found that 16% of companies said they were “thriving and feel their businesses are agile and resilient.” While 36% stated they were in “survival mode.” Regardless of where they were ranked in the index, the study concluded that 70% of firms were in the process of ramping up digital transformation within their company due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide that was already present in the small business market, and it is forcing companies to accelerate their digitalization,” said Daniel-Zoe Jimenez, AVP, head digital transformation & SMB research at IDC. “Small businesses are realizing that digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival.”

The study also highlighted several challenges associated with digital transformation. The three biggest obstacles that businesses seem to face during the process were digital skills and talent, budgetary issues (lack of funds or previous commitment of funds), and cultural resistance to change. Despite these roadblocks, 45% of companies surveyed stated that they expect over 30% of their business to be digital by 2021. And 32% responded that they are planning on developing a digital strategy. This included investing in talent with the right set of digital skills moving forward.

Those decisions fall in line with Cisco and IDC’s recommendations. These include creating a three-year technology road map and building a workforce with the right skills to succeed in a digital world. Other suggestions include finding the right technology partner, and keeping up with industry trends. Leveraging financing and remanufactured equipment can aid with cash flow and budget requirements.

As small businesses continue to adapt to consumer behavior and the whirlwind of ever-changing rules that have come with the coronavirus, digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the post-COVID world. According to the report, if half of the small businesses surveyed can reach the second-highest tier of the index by 2024, those companies could end up adding an additional $2.3 trillion to the eight markets’ gross domestic product (GDP), contributing to the global economic recovery.

As we approach the six-month mark of the pandemic, just when and how the “new normal” will emerge is still uncertain. But there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for small businesses — even if it’s faint green and contains zeroes and ones.

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Business Entrepreneur

Choose your startup business partner wisely

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Creating a startup business with a friend sounds amazing, but consider carefully if you may be better off as friends.

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Young couple working on startup together.

So, you want to be your own boss? Maybe get out and into a new career to crawl out from under the corporate drone motif? What better way to do it than to go into a startup business for yourself?

Hundreds of Americans have ideas that could turn into a new career. But not as many have the support structure, either financial or social, to make these dreams become a reality. A few of these people might look for someone to go into business with to help with the financial burden.

Can you think of a better way to start off a new business than with your best friend by your side? I sure as hell can.

My best friend and I get along great in our personal time. We’re both zombie horror nerds. He’s straight, I’m gay. He’s a cop, I’m an out of work geophysicist/bartender/writer – the jokes don’t quit with us. Our typical nights together include drinking at bars and smacking the other one upside the head as deemed necessary. We’re both slightly better than Neanderthals some days. And most importantly, neither of us should be trusted to work together.

Now of course that’s probably more specific to my situation, but let’s just realize that finding two people who can be the closest of friends and business partners is pretty rare.

There are a few people who have figured it out though and you can find a number of pointers online for new/established startup companies. A few of these tips include: Lots of structure to try and keep the fun at home and the business in the office, clearly defining roles, honest open communication, and strictly defining fiscal expectations.

So basically, it’s like committing to another marriage, which is what another set of people do for their startup business as well. Numerous married couples have put together careers and their relationships, and a great many of them are very successful.

So, if you have someone who you can commit to another potentially lifelong relationship with, and you trust to follow all of these rules, then go for it.

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Business Entrepreneur

Kanception simplifies your project management with nested tasks

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) There are already many available options for project management tools. Kanception.io offers a new approach with nested Kanban boards.

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Project management tool by Kanception.io shows nested Kanban boards.

Project management tools are a project manager’s best friend. They help organize client requirements and keep track of team tasks, timelines, budgets, and various project restraints. Being able to streamline and delegate work in one place helps PMs be more efficient. At least, they should.

If a PM has to spend more time managing the software rather than managing projects, that clearly isn’t a good sign. The key to productivity is finding the platform that best suits your needs. Any new or seasoned PM will tell you that even the best scoped out projects will receive last-minute requirement changes from stakeholders. So, taking into consideration extra padding to make adjustments for a project’s new feature is important.

So, what is the best project management tool? There are a lot of good management software tools out there, and each one is slightly different. Finding the right one is difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all software. Thanks to Kanception.io, that decision just got a little harder (or easier).

This “team based project management software” has simple boards and cards just like Trello, but with an added kick. And better yet, it’s free!

Getting started with Kanception is simple enough. You sign up for a free account on their website and start creating your board. Using the “Invite Team” option, you can add and share projects with teammates. After you’ve named and created your board, you can create cards (tasks). These cards can be moved from the Backlog to In Progress with a simple drag and drop operation. But creating your Kanban board doesn’t have to stop there!

This Kanban board has a nested card feature. Large tasks can be broken into “bite-sized, nested subtasks.” It’s a Kanban board within a Kanban board within a Kanban board. The levels of nesting are infinite. To access any nested card, all you have to do is single-click on a card. Then, you are easily taken to that card’s inner Kanban board.

The tool also lets you track time and project planning with the Gantt chart. By double-clicking on a card, you can schedule to-dos. With the calendar, projects can be viewed at a glance. This is helpful when you are trying to display tasks in terms of time.

“Here at Kanception, we believe apps should be intuitive and simple to use,” Kanception’s website reads. On the surface, the app does appear very straightforward. Overall, if you work with large projects and need a more organized approach, this could be the project management tool for you. The nested Kanban boards will help break down all your subtasks into clean and tidy bits.

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